Everything You Need to Know About CBD: Latest FDA Guidance, State of the Industry and Buyers’ Guide

Earlier this month, now-resigned Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Commissioner Scott Gottlieb issued a press release on hemp and hemp-derived cannabidiol (CBD), providing guidance on how the FDA will begin to regulate hemp CBD. This release was Gottlieb’s first since the passing of the 2018 Farm Bill, which removed hemp from the Controlled Substances Act.

Initially perceived by CBD advocates as groundbreaking legislation, the passing of the 2018 Farm Bill last December was followed by a release from Gottlieb which once again put CBD’s status back in a gray area. Although hemp-derived CBD was legalized by the bill, the FDA retained its authority over hemp CBD additives to foods, drugs and dietary supplements.

Gottlieb’s latest release provided more information on how the FDA will create a framework for the lawful marketing of cannabis and cannabis-derived products, including a public hearing on May 31, 2019 and the creation of a high-level working group at the FDA which will explore how dietary supplements and foods containing CBD are marketed.

John Torrens, professor of entrepreneurial practice at Syracuse University’s Martin J. Whitman School of Management and cannabis industry expert, believes that some FDA regulation of CBD is a good thing for consumers.

“It seems like CBD products appeared on store shelves overnight after the farm bill passed,” said Torrens. “Consumers need to be educated on what they are buying and using.”

Torrens went on to explain how the CBD craze has already attracted all manner of charlatans and snake oil salesmen looking to make a quick buck. One example can be found in the influx of CBD waters and drinks.

“The problem is that CBD is a hydrophobic molecule, meaning that it is not water soluble,” explained Torrens. “If you put CBD oil into water it would look like you put a drop of olive oil in water. The best a company can do is create a water dispersible CBD, but the CBD will degrade over time and shelf stability is questionable.”

While consumers should be wary when purchasing CBD, there are plenty of high-quality, safe products on the market that are providing consumers a multitude of benefits. Among these benefits, stress reduction, sleep support, pain management and skin care are most commonly reported by users as reasons for using CBD.

Here are a few things to consider before making your purchase decision.


When choosing a CBD product, the concentration of CBD oil is the most important factor to consider. To find the concentration, look for the number of milligrams of CBD on the product label. Keep in mind that the total volume of oil is different than the total volume of CBD – the milligrams of CBD are what really count. For example, a CBD oil vape pen may contain 1000 milligrams of hemp oil and 100 milligrams of CBD, meaning the product’s concentration is 10 percent CBD.

Full spectrum, Broad spectrum or Isolate
CBD is only one of phytocannabinoids found in hemp. CBD by itself (isolate) is can be used for some things, but the real benefit comes from the synergistic effect of consuming a full spectrum hemp oil extract that contains all the normal cannabinoids. This is often referred to as the ‘entourage effect’. Broad spectrum CBD is a mix of full spectrum and isolate and contains other cannabinoids, which can deliver the benefits of the entourage effect as well. Understanding whether the product you are consuming is isolate, broad spectrum or full spectrum is important. It’s a good idea to do some research on your own to help you decide which type of extract is best for you.

Product type
CBD can be consumed in a variety of different forms, including tinctures, concentrates, vape oil, topicals, capsules and edibles. Some users find that tinctures, capsules, and edibles are the easiest methods of consumption. CBD vape oil has surged in popularity, but requires a vaporizer which can be intimidating for beginners. Products also differ in the immediacy of their effects.

Other things to consider
As with any new industry, products are produced with varying degrees of quality standards. When purchasing products online, make sure to check a number of sources and pay attention to product reviews.

Although the CBD found in hemp and marijuana is molecularly the same, marijuana-derived CBD is still federally illegal. Make sure that the company you purchase from is selling products made from industrial hemp, which is legal in all 50 states. To be considered a hemp product and not marijuana, the concentration of THC must be lower than 0.3 percent. If you reside in a state where recreational cannabis is legal, this is less of a concern.

Alexander Straus